Why “Weight Loss” as a Goal is Bound to Fail

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And what you can do to help your clients succeed!

personal trainer goal setting

As a certified health coach, yoga and spin instructor I have worked with many clients over the years; men, women, children, families you name it. The first question I always ask a new client is what their health goals are and nine times out of 10 it is the same reply, I want to lose weight or I want to weigh X amount and each and every time I hear this I cringe for many reasons.

Let’s think for a minute about why we create goals in the first place. Goals are meant to motivate us, drive us, create more passion in our lives and ultimately make us better, and I have yet to see anyone achieve any of these things when their only focus is to lose weight, and most of the time they are setting themselves up for failure. A WebMD article found that, “on average, overweight people set a goal of losing 32% of their body mass. That’s three times the amount needed to achieve better health…setting extreme goals is a setup for disappointment and failure.”

ignore scaleThe clients I have worked with who focus only on the weight end up bringing a lot of stress and negativity into their lives. They become obsessed with the scale, and only get frustrated and upset when they have not lost another pound, or even if they are losing weight but it’s not fast enough. It can cause people to under eat and over exercise which can do long-term damage to their metabolism and hormones.

My clients who did finally reach their goals would then become terrified of gaining the weight back leading to an unhealthy relationship with food. Or worse, they would reach their “ideal weight” but would still be suffering from other health issues. The number on the scale does not determine how we feel on a daily basis, and as a society we have completely lost sight of this. Being “healthy” is so much more than what the scale says.

So, after seeing this happen over and over, I decided I needed to try to help my clients change their approach. Every time I heard someone say they wanted to lose weight I would then follow up with, why? This simple one word question led to discovering so much more. The answers I would most often get were, I want more energy, I want to sleep better, I want to build muscle, I want to come off medications or be able to play soccer with my kids. Now these are goals worth working towards, they are motivating and achievable! Once my clients started to reframe their thoughts and focus on the why, I saw success rates sky rocket, stress levels go down and clients feeling positive and excited, rather than beating themselves up for not losing that extra pound or for eating the extra slice of pizza.

Dan Bolton of The Healthy Eater blog says, “clear and compelling goals can mean the real difference between success and failure.” Workout tracking is an amazing tool that can help fitness instructors and coaches support their clients in creating these types of goals. It provides students and athletes the ability to track their progress over time as they become stronger and faster in their workouts. They are able to set new benchmarks each week, whether it’s lifting that extra weight, doing one more kettlebell swing or running a faster mile. Tools like this allow clients to create individualized goals to fit their needs and keep them on track.

We encourage all trainers, coaches and fitness industry enthusiasts to work together to try to help change this stigma we have created around weight, and instead focus on helping people to be their happiest, healthiest and strongest selves!

As a fitness professional, you help your clients create SMART goals every day. Have you been creating goals for yourself as well? Watch our short webinar, Goal Setting to Drive Success to learn how to create solid personal and professional goals that you can achieve this year!

fitness business goal webinar


Jessica Christin

Jessica Christin, Market Development Representative
Zen Planner

Jess is a new addition to the Zen Planner family, she started in a sales position in January! She moved to Denver from Boston in September and is loving the new climate, and mild winter weather. Outside of work she is a certified Yoga/Spin instructor and Health Coach. She has a passion for leading an active lifestyle and helping others in reaching optimal health both physically and mentally. She is looking forward to continuing to explore Colorado through hiking, and other outdoor activities, and as a big foodie checking out some good local restaurants.